German Dialect

Who uses this dialect?

This is the speech of the Germans, including Prussians and Bavarians. Germany is not a state at this point, but a collection of states, whose peoples all speak more-or-less the same language.

Rhythm and Music

This can be a fairly gutteral, militaristic-sounding dialect. However, the sound is generally not made back in the throat (except for 'r' sounds), but rather fairly far forward in the mouth. Because we deal so much in stereotypes, we tend to go with a rhythm that sounds like marching for this dialect.

German Syntax

In addition to all the standard tricks described on the dialect page, German characters (like most foriegners) use bits of their own language mixed into their speech. Fortunately, German has a lot of cognates, or words that are very similar in both sound and meaning, with English. For example, the German word for "sister" is "schwester."

Also, German characters can use what I call "falsen Deutschen," or pseudo-German. This comes from the German tendancy to make new words by sticking a bunch of existing ones together. Of course, falsen Deutschen has little if anything to do with real German, but it's fun, and usually gets a grin from the patrons. There are a couple of ways to use this technique:

  1. Mash a couple of synonyms together. For example, "jumping" can become "jumpen-springen."
  2. Add an "-en" to the end of a verb, an object, or both. You might even swap the order of the verb and the object. So the act of tying one's shoes becomes "lacen boot," "booten lacen," or "lacen booten."
The uses of this technique are nearly limitless, one you get a feel for it. Have fun!

Sound Changes

Each of the links below is an ".mp3" file demonstrating a sound change. Listen to the example as many times as you need to, repeating it on your own afterwards. Take as much time as you need to with each sound. If you take the examples in order, you will sometimes run into sounds you haven't gotten to yet. Don't worry about it, just do the best you can until you've gone through all the sounds. Then go back and listen to the examples again, and make whatever corrections you need to.

I have included notes where appropriate.

  1. Most of the vowels in the German accent undergo only very subtle changes. You might imagine that the sounds tighten a bit. Listen to the following two sounds:
    American: A - E - I - O - OO
    German: A - E - I - O - OO
    Now, these long vowels are what we think of as "dipthongs," or combinations of sounds. The change you can hear in the German version is that the first part of the dipthong is emphasized. Again, this is a very subtle change, but once you put it together with the consonant changes, it makes more sense and should come fairly naturally.

  2. The short vowels tighten a bit, as well. The 'i' in words like "sit" moves toward a long 'e' sound.
    Winter is different in England.

  3. The short 'oo' in words like "cook" tightens toward the long 'u' in "food"
    The wood from the bookcase was burned for cooking.

  4. And both short 'a' sounds (as in "half" or "map") darken a bit.
    Grab the commander's map with your hands.

  5. All right, moving on to the consonants.
    Let's start with the hardest of the bunch: the 'r' sound. This is pronounced in the back of the throat, much as in French.
    The mercenaries drove the heretic army into the ground.

  6. The souds of 'st' and 'sp' become 'sht' and 'shp,' respectively.
    Stop stirring, or you'll spoil it.

  7. The short 'th' sound ("thin," "thistle") becomes a 'ts' sound.
    Through thorough consideration, a path may be thought of.

  8. Similarly, the hard 'th' ("this," "other") becomes a 'dz' sound.
    The brother was therefore a blithering idiot.

  9. The next several changes all occur in the middle and at the end of words, but not at the beginnig.
    The 'b' sound moves to 'p.'
    Grab the tub, and start rubbing.

  10. The 'g' sound moves to 'k.'
    The hag danced a jig for the king.

  11. The 'd' sound moves to 't.'
    I was so cold, my head began to hurt.

  12. And the last set of changes occur nearly everywhere, so long as they do not interfere with intelligibility.
    The 'v' sound moves to an 'f.'
    When fever visits, 'tis always a grave matter.

  13. The 'z' and 's' swap places.
    The sound of the cymbals was so noisy that I could not find repose.

  14. And finally, the classic: 'w' transforms into a 'v.'
    What more could a man wish for than whiskey and water?

Tag Line.

Finally, here's a few lines from Twelfth Night to practice with. I recommend using these lines to get into dialect before rehearsal or performance.

If music be the food of love, play on!
Give me excess of it, that the appetite,
Surfieting, may sicken and so die.

And there you have it, all the changes thou shalt need to speak like a German. I wish you much joy of it!

Back to the dialect page.